Friday, November 13, 2015

Week 11: Clocks

This week, the Playoff Committee released its newest rankings which, we should all remember, remain entirely meaningless at this stage. For example, the Playoff Committee could rank Purdue at #2, just ahead of Faber College and Texas State (not the Texas State in San Marcos, but the one carried to glory by a chemistry graduate student with NCAA eligibility played by Sinbad in Necessary Roughness) and it would not matter one bit until the Playoff Selection Committee selects the actual playoff teams.There is still no explanation as to why the Playoff Committee spends much of the season as the Sure, These Teams Might Make The Playoffs Committee.

The current Texas State had previously been Southwest 
 Texas State and originated as Southwest Texas State 
 Normal School. Lyndon Johnson attended and, 
according to Robert Caro, immediately turned the 
student government into a polarized hotbed of political 
intrigue before he went on to the White House to deploy 
the the Great Society and perfect a 
bunghole-sensitive pants ordering procedure 

The playoff picture once again revolves around Northwestern. The Wildcats own the only defeat against #7 Stanford, while they were obliterated by the undefeated fifth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. The Cardinal, however, remain in the playoff hunt. Playoff Committee Chairman Jeff Long explained that Stanford's loss to Northwestern counts less than other losses because the arduous journey from the California Bay Area to Evanston wreaked havoc on the players' body clocks. 
I think we would not be doing our due diligence if we didn't recognize that a team was playing at 9 a.m. Pacific Time, and I recall last year we had a game, I believe UCLA traveled to Virginia. So we look at those things. They're a factor. How big of a factor? I can't quantify that for you, but I know it was discussed by the committee members and probably should have been. 
There is no other satisfying explanation for a loss to Northwestern. It was the beguiling Central Time Zone, conceived of by midwestern railroad barons specifically for football purposes, that made Stanford players incapable of tackling Clayton Thorson or stopping Kevin Hogan from lofting a passes to Kyle Queiro in the endzone.

Ryan Field's dozens of home fans and aggressive tarp arrays already bring the Big Ten's
fiercest home field advantage, but what can teams do when the very laws of time and space
are brought to bear on their helpless players?

It is a good thing that the Playoff Committee is here to sift through the unpredictable and impossible riddle of college football and come up with rankings that factor in time zones, humors, and phrenological analyses of quarterback skull shapes to throw into chaotic mix.

"I think we would not be doing our due diligence
if we didn't recognize that the quarterback's
forehead indicated docility and inability to diagnose
defenses at the point of the snap is a factor when
arbitrarily determining a list of good football teams
because 45% of power in the Southeastern United
States is generated by people yelling at Paul
Finebaum," Long said

The issue of body clocks has obscured the week's more important clock revelation. The University of Illinois released the full Beckman Report. The report, available in full here, is more than 1,200 pages long. Under the heading "Team Culture and Environment," the Beckman Clock is revealed, an ominous Instrument of Intimidation that counts down to the Hat showdown between the Illini and "The Team Upstate."

Time is a hat circle

Here is the report's sixty-fifth footnote that might be my favorite thing ever written about Tim Beckman:
Some players complained that Coach Beckman’s requirement that injured players wear purple jerseys and placement of an anti-Northwestern sign in the athletic training room improperly communicated to players that being injured or seeking medical treatment was the equivalent of being a hated rival, at least to Coach Beckman. The vast majority of players, coaches, and sports medicine staff interviewed dismissed any such notions and reported no concern or even interest in either issue. Instead, witnesses interpreted these motivational tactics as meaningless.

Penn State faced numerous obstacles coming into Ryan Field. For one, they bravely transitioned from Eastern Time to Central Time. Then, they had to face the Wildcat defense. For most of the first half, Northwestern stymied the Nittany Lion attack. After an injury to Clayton Thorson, Justin Jackson took over, going for 186 yards on the day. Northwestern led 20-7 at the half, with at least one other scoring opportunity sailing past the uprights. But in the second half, Penn State came back. On one drive, the 'Cats got a stop only to give their opponents second life with consecutive roughing calls on a punter and a sliding quarterback. Then, wide receiver Geno Lewis picked up a fumbled reverse like an Australian Rules football player and heaved a perfect pass to his colleague in the endzone.

Jack Mitchell's missed extra point gave Penn State the slimmest lead in the fourth quarter. But when the defense stuffed Saquon Barkley and backup quarterback Zack Oliver managed to complete a long pass on third and the approximate distance between Evanston and Happy Valley, Mitchell got a chance to win the game. Jackson moved the ball effectively into range and Mitchell blasted one through the uprights for a thrilling comeback. Penn State got the ball back with nine seconds, in which they did nothing. This unfortunate turn of events stymied reporters' efforts to call it a walk-off kick because Jack Mitchell plays baseball and the Iron Law of Sports Announcing clearly states that if an athlete plays another sport, it is necessary to shoehorn that into broadcasts as much as humanly possible until viewers want to declare that they play a second sport of kumite fighting and are going to travel to the press box and pummel some godforsaken Joe Buck acolyte.

Sports announcers were probably responsible for Pro
Stars, a cartoon product where Michael Jordan, Bo
Jackson, and Wayne Gretzky used their sports skills to
defeat the forces of evil in lairs that, because of the
participation of Gretzky, always inexplicably contained
at least one large sheet of smooth ice

Clocks once again played a central role in the game. Penn State coach James Franklin deployed an avant-garde use of timeouts during the final minute, inexplicably allowing the 'Cats to run the clock down instead of allowing his offense about 30-40 seconds to get into field goal range on their final possession. Some Penn State fans took exception to his clock management and responded in the best way possible: by flying into an incoherent rage on the internet. Something about college football turns ordinary men and women into capricious space emperors, ready to cast out coaches, athletic directors, and anyone else involved in the football team into the space pits used for henchman and failed head coaches of as-yet-uninvented space sports.

The entire apparatus of a university is not safe from the wrath of football fans. Nebraska supporters, already reeling from a streak of improbably close losses including one at the hands of Northwestern, suffered the ultimate indignity of a loss to Purdue. Purdue fans spent the week confused, like they were henchmen who managed to kill Batman in the first 20 minutes of a movie and then had to figure out with the next two and a half hours. Nebraska's most unhinged fringe sent e-mails to the university chancellor. Every fanbase, including Northwestern I'm sure, has its epistolary football maniacs, but not every fanbase had their letters conveniently loaded onto the Worldwide Web so we can see internet comments brought into the Academy for the first time outside of a seminar entitled UNCALLED HOLDING PENALTIES: Discourses of Internet Football Commentary, this moderator is a joke and MUST BE FIRED IMMEDIATELY by the Department of Internet Football Semiotics.

Purdue faces Northwestern at Ryan Field on Saturday. The Boilermakers suffered a 48-14 shellacking at the hands of the Illini last week. Purdue fans have gone past pessimism and resignation to a rarefied football nihilism, staring stoically at another touchdown drive that means nothing. The Wildcats are heavy favorites in the game. At the same time, the appeal of college football is its unpredictability; it is a sport fueled by improbable upsets, jubilant goalpost-handling, and sour-faced upset victims staring despondently into the unknown. Purdue will rely on its strength: the Big Ten's greatest reserve of really scrappy-sounding quarterback names. Darrell Hazell will has benched Austin Appleby for freshman David Blough, both of whom train by having Purdue Pete burst through the walls in their lecture halls and chase them around campus on one of those old-timey railroad handcars. There are no guarantees in college football except that a Purdue win will result in a liveried footman delivering my angry scroll letter to Northwestern's president demanding he turn in his University President’s Sword.


College football is the story of desperate teams running into each other at the mercy of a callous clock. Teams can stop the clock, they can eat clock, they can kill the clock. In the end, only the clock decides when the game ends, unless the game ends on an insane series of laterals with zero time remaining and then there is no time, everyone is simply floating in an ether beyond the concept of time itself between the fourth quarter and infinity, inscrutable to even our most learned scientists, philosophers, and ACC video replay officials.

Our clocks are oblivion devices, counting down to our inevitable demise one picosecond at a time. There is no way to stop or reverse time; our regrets remain alive and the dinosaurs remain dead. Stanford can do nothing about its loss to Northwestern except complain about body clocks, James Franklin can't get those 30 seconds back, and the Beckman Clock is always counting down to the next Hat Game on the horizon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can't decide what I want more; the total lack of comments leaving me secure in the knowledge that I am among the few crying in laughter at these posts, or wanting the comments to be full of riffs on lines like:

Ryan Field's dozens of home fans and aggressive tarp arrays already bring the Big Ten's
fiercest home field advantage, but what can teams do when the very laws of time and space
are brought to bear on their helpless players?



Ok, I'll just keep laughing then.